From the Wonk Room.
The We Campaign’s action alert sent yesterday to activists about the U.S. Climate Change Science Program report on global warming’s effects on extreme weather.
The warming climate has made more extreme precipitation inevitable, and in response, the U.S. must dramatically refashion its failed flood control policies.
The world’s largest grassroots environmental organization noted that U.S. flood control policy has been misguided for decades, pointing to government panels from 1966 and 1973 that recommended “more attention be paid to relocation out of flood zones and called for greater emphasis on non-engineering solutions.” Instead, due to pork barrel spending “totally unnecessary and often environmentally destructive projects are built while those of higher priority go unaddressed,” destroying up to 95% of the wetlands of Iowa and Illinois. With global warming, policies that were once problematic are now disastrous.On July 1, National Wildlife Federation head Larry Schweiger called on Congress to hold immediate hearings to revise the National Flood Insurance Reform and Modernization Act. The accompanying report from the largest environmental organization in the United States, “Heavy Rainfall and Increased Flooding Risk: Global Warming’s Wake-Up Call for the Central United States,” recommends the U.S. stop its levee-larded strategy for flood control and begin aggressive reductions in global warming pollution. Offering her thoughts and prayers to those grappling with the “catastrophic flooding in the central United States,” NWF climate scientist Amanda Staudt connected the dots:
The big picture is that global warming is making tragedies like these more frequent and more intense. Global warming is happening now. Our dependency on fossil fuels like oil and coal is causing the problem, and people and wildlife are witnessing the effects.
Unfortunately, not all leaders are recognizing the severity of this crisis. Major news networks employ global warming deniers and industry apologists in senior positions, The Wall Street Journal publishes right-wing extremists who think climate science is a “sick-souled religion,” and the New York Times publishes stories on the future of the Everglades and the effects of extreme floods on Midwest agriculture without even mentioning climate change once.
Originally posted at the Wonk Room.
The traditional media rarely discusses extreme weather events in the context of global warming. However, as the Wonk Room Global Boiling series has documented, scientists have been warning us for years that climate change will increase catastrophic weather events like the California wildfires, the East Coast heatwave, and the Midwest floods that have been taking lives and causing billions in damage in recent days.
Today, the federal government has released a report that assembles this knowledge in stark and unequivocal terms. “Weather and Climate Extremes in a Changing Climate,” by the multi-agency U.S. Climate Change Science Program with the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration in the lead, warns that changes in extreme weather are “among the most serious challenges to society” in dealing with global warming. After reporting that heat waves, severe rainfall, and intense hurricanes have been on the rise – all linked to manmade global warming – the authors deliver this warning about the future:
In the future, with continued global warming, heat waves and heavy downpours are very likely to further increase in frequency and intensity. Substantial areas of North America are likely to have more frequent droughts of greater severity. Hurricane wind speeds, rainfall intensity, and storm surge levels are likely to increase. The strongest cold season storms are likely to become more frequent, with stronger winds and more extreme wave heights.Unfortunately, some of the cautions in this long-delayed report have come too late for the victims of the Midwest Flood:
Some short-term actions taken to lessen the risk from extreme events can lead to increases in vulnerability to even larger extremes. For example, moderate flood control measures on a river can stimulate development in a now “safe” floodplain, only to see those new structures damaged when a very large flood occurs.
- Warmest January on record—global mean temperature 0.85 C above the 30-year mean
- 8000 high-temperature records set or matched in August at US weather stations
- Warmest April in England in 348 years, 0.6 C above 1865 record
- Canadian Northwest Passage open for five weeks starting August 11, first time ever navigable
- Arctic sea ice retreated to record minimum, 23% below 2005 record minimum
- Greenland ice cap
- Across North America, severe to extreme drought was present across large parts of the western U.S. and Upper Midwest, including southern Ontario
- Extreme drought in Australia
- Record Alaskan permafrost warming
- Record rains fell in China, England and Wales
- A tornado struck New York City in August
- A June cyclone struck Oman and Iran
- South Africa got its first significant snowfall in 25 years